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Book that Changed my Life

Alan Simpson

Urban Design in Action, Batchelor and Lewis. Published in the USA by The School of Design at North Carolina State University; Raleigh North Carolina, in cooperation with the American Institute of Architects 1986.

The sub-title to Urban Design in Action reads 'The history, theory and development of the American Institute of Architects'Regional/Urban Design Assistance Teams Program (R/UDAT). The book is dedicated to the memory of Jules Gregory FAIA (1920-1985) and the dedication reads (Gregory) 'Who challenged the architectural profession to expand its responsibility beyond the design of individual buildings and to assume a leadership role in enhancing the comprehensive quality of life in our cities'.

A further quotation in support of the intentions of the R/UDAT program comes from Thomas Jefferson: 'I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion'.

I first read Urban Design in Action in the mid-1980s and the book is a constant companion through my practice and in teaching. Batchelor and Lewis, and their numerous colleagues at the AIA and across the United States have over the past thirty years truly pioneered a 'way forward'for urban design and community planning about which we still have much to learn in the UK and Europe. The integrity and tenacity of their work lea ves British attempts to emulate the program sadly lacking; one might be tempted to suggest, 'well! only in America!', but no! Urban Design in Action and the continuing work of David Lewis and the AIA team still has much to teach us all.

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